Multi-Sensory Engagement

April 21, 2011 2 Comments


|Photo by scalespeeder||

We are big believers here, at IISC, in pulling on all of the senses and our full selves to create engaging experiences that bring out the best that people individually and collectively have to offer for the sake of social change.  Often meetings and convenings only scratch the surface of our many sensibilities, as if we were simply brains on sticks, without bodies, without hearts.  Subsequently much is lost that we may not even be aware of.  As Kare Anderson writes,  “Even apparently small physical experiences make a big emotional and even learning difference.”

We’ve found that it can really matter to have visuals on walls with vibrant colors, play a variety of music at breaks and during certain activities, include poetry, use video at strategic moments, establish a comfortable seating arrangement, make sure some kind of tasty food and refreshment is available, integrate movement and hands-on exercises here and there.

This is some of what Kare Anderson highlights in her recent blog post, “Sensory Ways to Bring Others Closer”, as part of the growing case for pulling on all of our senses to enhance collaboration:

1. Children “are better at math when using their hands while thinking,” found to Josh Ackerman, a MIT psychologist. Further, the weight, texture and hardness of objects we touch affects our opinion of the people and the situation.

2. Actors recall lines better when moving and we remember more when walking, gesturing, eating or physically working on something.

3. “People are more generous after holding a warm cup of coffee and more callous after hold a cold drink,” discovered Yale University psychologist John Bargh.

4. Patterns, whether on the walls or floor or upper part of one’s clothing, break up the observers’ attention span and, like ambient noise in a room from the heating or air conditioning system, make us more agitated and inclined to become irritated by each other’s behavior.

5. Scent is the most directly emotional sense and thus a two-edge sword. If the evoked memory is positive it hits deeply and, if not….well, we are more likely to project bad characteristics on the scene and individuals around us.

What are some the most creative, bold, and effective ways that you’ve integrated multi-sensory experiences to enhance collaboration?


  • Melinda says:

    On occasions when Ive given lectures or lead workshops at my favorite design school – Savannah College of Art & Design — super talented students have done visual recording of the lecture/conversation….like the gifted Jenni Lightfoot Search for “Melinda” on her blogsite for her graphic representation of a talk I gave on “collaboration for social change” (or something like that) at SCAD a year ago or so. I see a day when we at IISC have visual recorders and trained designers on staff as consultants!

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